updated 9/3/2008 6:02:47 PM ET 2008-09-03T22:02:47

Three Canadian soldiers were killed and five wounded when they were attacked during a patrol in southern Afghanistan, officials said Wednesday.

The latest casualties brings Canada's death toll to 96 soldiers.

Task Force Commander Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson said from Afghanistan that Cpl. Andrew Grenon, Cpl. Mike Seggie and Pvt. Chad Horn were conducting a security patrol in the volatile Zhari district near Kandahar city when the attack occurred.

All dead and wounded were flown by helicopter to Kandahar Airfield.

Three of the soldiers were confirmed dead on arrival. One of the wounded remained in critical condition, another in serious condition and two in good condition. The fifth wounded soldier was treated and returned to duty.

Soldiers near end of tour
The latest casualties involved soldiers who were nearing the end of their six-month tour.

"It saddens me to think of their loved ones who were expecting them to return home later this month," Thompson said.

Canada has lost 96 soldiers and one diplomat in Afghanistan since the country first sent troops to Afghanistan after the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States. Ottawa increased the deployment after declining a U.S. request to dispatch troops to Iraq.

Canada has 2,500 soldiers stationed in Kandahar province, the former Taliban stronghold that has again emerged as the epicenter of violence.

As the death toll in Afghanistan approaches 100, it threatens to rekindle a debate between those who argue a stable Afghanistan is needed to protect Canadians and global security and opponents who say too many soldiers are dying for a lost cause. That debate had largely dissipated since Parliament voted in March to extend the mission to 2011.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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